I'm reading WATER FOR ELEPHANTS, and I love it.
Why? I don't know. I have no interest in the circus. When I heard about the book I thought, "Not for me." But I picked it up in a bookstore and read the first two pages. Then I bought it, and now I don't want to put it down.
It's that combination thing: good characters, people I can cheer for and identify with. It's description that makes everything crystal clear, sometimes evoking things I've experienced, other times describing things I haven't in a way that makes me feel like I have. It's pacing that makes me want to know what's next, and in this book that happens on two levels, so the author is doubly challenged.
It's good writing, and it leaves me in a dilemma: do I want to read and savor the author's expertise, or do I want to write and attempt to do as well as she has?